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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card Review

Our rating



  • thumbs-upBroad 2x categories beyond Southwest airfare
  • thumbs-upSolid progress toward Companion Pass and A-List status
  • thumbs-up6,000 bonus points each cardmember anniversary


  • thumbs-downHas a $99 annual fee
  • thumbs-downModest baseline earn rate
  • thumbs-downDynamic redemption values make planning difficult

The information related to the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has been collected by Money Crashers and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is a travel rewards credit card with a $99 annual fee. Its airline rewards program is built around Rapid Rewards, Southwest Airlines’ frequent flyer program, and is extremely attractive for active Southwest Airlines flyers who use this card as their primary plastic spending aid.

As a cardholder, you earn 2 Rapid Rewards points per $1 spent on all Southwest Airlines purchases, as well as purchases with select hotels and rental car companies. You earn 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. Accumulated points are good for Southwest Airlines airfare redemptions, with no blackout dates or seat restrictions. Powerful frequent-traveler benefits make this a worthwhile card for regular fliers with easy access to a Southwest Airlines airport – even if you’re not yet a Southwest convert.

Key Features of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

These are the most important features of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, one of the most popular co-branded airline credit cards on the market right now.

Sign-up Bonus

Earn 60,000 bonus points plus a 30% off promo code after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Earning Rapid Rewards

Every $1 you spend on Southwest airfare, vacation packages, in-flight food and drinks, and other incidentals earns 2 Rapid Rewards points, with no caps or restrictions.

Several other types of purchases also earn unlimited 2x points:

  • Purchases with hotel and rental car partners, including Hertz
  • Purchases of local transit and commuting, including rideshare
  • Purchases of eligible internet, cable, and phone services, and select streaming services

All other eligible purchases earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent.

Redeeming Rapid Rewards

You can redeem accumulated Rapid Rewards for Southwest Airlines airfare, with no blackout dates or seat restrictions. This is the best way to redeem your Rapid Rewards points; nothing else comes close.

What Are Redemption Minimums for Southwest Airlines?

Redemption minimums typically start at 5,000 for one-way flights and 10,000 for round-trip flights.

Unlike some other airlines, which fix the number of points required for redemption, Southwest Airlines regularly uses certain factors to adjust the number of points required to redeem a particular flight.

These factors include flight time, date, season, destination, distance, and more. Adjustments occur on a weekly or even daily basis.

How Much Are Rapid Rewards Points Worth When Redeemed?

Points are worth anywhere from less than $0.01 to approximately $0.02 at redemption, depending on the factors described above.

How Else Can You Redeem Your Rapid Rewards Points?

You can also redeem accumulated points for merchandise, gift cards, and experiences (such as musical performances) through Southwest More Rewards, a partner company. However, points redeemed for non-travel items are typically valued at well under $0.01 apiece.

What Is Southwest More Rewards?

More Rewards also allows you to redeem points for partner airfare purchases with about 50 other airlines serving 800-plus international destinations, on hotel stays with a number of partner companies covering more than 70,000 individual hotels worldwide, and on car rentals with major rental companies such as Hertz.

Earning Tier Qualifying Points

Separately from the Rapid Rewards program, you earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points, which are Rapid Rewards points not earned through credit card bonuses and partner purchases, for every $10,000 spent with your Rapid Rewards Premier card. You can earn unlimited Tier Qualifying Points per year in this fashion.

If you earn 35,000 Tier Qualifying Points in a calendar year, you get A-List status – Southwest’s elite frequent flyer program. A-List status benefits include a 25% point-earning bonus, priority consideration when flying standby, and priority boarding on all flights. You can also earn A-List status by completing at least 25 one-way flights in a calendar year.

Cardmember Anniversary Bonus

On the anniversary date of your account opening, you get a 6,000-point bonus at no charge. This benefit recurs for as long as you remain a cardholder in good standing.

Companion Pass Status

Heavy spenders and frequent Southwest Airlines travelers are eligible for Companion Pass status. This is one of the most valuable frequent flyer perks in American aviation.

How Do You Reach Companion Pass Status With Southwest Airlines?

To reach Companion Pass status, you either need to earn 110,000 Tier Qualifying Points in a calendar year (through credit card spending or paid Southwest flights) or complete at least 100 one-way Southwest Airlines flights (connecting flights count separately). This card’s Tier Qualifying Points boost (1,500 points per $10,000 spent) can help accelerate your progress.

What Are the Benefits of Southwest Airlines Companion Pass?

Once you achieve Companion Pass status, you can use the benefit to bring along a companion traveler on any Southwest flight at no additional charge, provided the companion is on the same flights as you. There’s no limit to how many times you can invoke this benefit, and you can have as many individual companions throughout the year as you’d like (limit one per flight).

How Long Does Companion Pass Remain in Effect?

Companion Pass status remains in effect for the remainder of the calendar year in which it’s earned and the entire year following. For example, if you earn Companion Pass status in October, you’ll have it through the following December, or about 15 months.

Important Fees

The annual fee is $99, but there’s no foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5% and cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%.

Additional Travel Benefits

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card comes with some useful and budget-friendly, though not luxurious, travel benefits. The most noteworthy are: 

  • 2 EarlyBird check-ins per year, making you much more likely to board earlier in the process
  • 25% off eligible in-flight purchases, including food and drink

Of note: All Southwest Airlines flyers get the first and second checked bags free on all flights and no change fees on any flights. You don’t need the Southwest Airlines Premier Credit Card for your bags to fly free, but it’s still a nice perk of flying with Southwest.

Credit Required

This card requires excellent credit. Any notable credit blemishes are likely to be disqualifying.

Advantages of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card has a lot going for it. These are its biggest selling points.

  • Earn 2x Points on In-Flight Buys and Other Southwest Purchases. Your double (2x) point earnings apply to all purchases made with Southwest, not just airfare. That includes in-flight, gift card, hotel, and rental car partner purchases. United MileagePlus Explorer’s double (2x) point earning benefit applies only to airfare purchases, while Alaska Airlines Visa Signature’s triple-point benefit applies only to airfare, vacation packages, and cargo shipments.
  • Earn 2x Points on Broad Non-Airfare Categories as Well. You’ll also earn 2x points on eligible transit, local commuting, hotel, rental car, entertainment, and communications purchases with this card. Those extras really add up.
  • Unlimited Tier Qualifying Points Per Year. Each $10,000 in qualifying spend earns 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points, which count toward A-List loyalty status and Companion Pass status. There’s no limit on the number of TQPs you can earn each year, other than your ability to pay off your purchases.
  • Points Never Expire. As long as your Rapid Rewards account remains open, your accumulated points never expire. By contrast, British Airways Avios points earned with the British Visa Signature Card expire after 36 months.
  • Nice Lineup of Southwest Perks. The most notable include 2 EarlyBird check-ins per year and 25% off in-flight purchases. Those come on top of standard Southwwest perks like up to 2 free checked bags and no change fees.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, making it a useful addition to any international traveler’s wallet. Expedia+ and Citi Hilton Honors Visa Signature both come with 3% foreign transaction fees.

Disadvantages of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Consider these downsides carefully before applying for this card.

  • Rather High Annual Fee From Day One. The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards’s $99 annual fee is higher than that of many competing cards, including the United MileagePlus Explorer Card ($95). Furthermore, many popular travel cards waive the annual fee in the first year, whereas Southwest Rapid Rewards charges its annual fee to your very first billing statement.
  • Few Luxury Benefits. While this card has some practical travel benefits, such as 2 EarlyBird check-ins each year and 25% off in-flight buys, it lacks the luxurious benefits that other cards emphasize. For example, United MileagePlus Explorer offers two complimentary airport lounge passes per year, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers VIP access to popular events such as the PGA Championship.
  • Budgeting and Planning Ahead for Redemptions Is Difficult. The exact number of Rapid Rewards points needed for a reward flight vary based on numerous factors, including flight time, date, season, demand, and more. Though Southwest’s website has a redemption calculator, it’s not a scientific tool, so its conclusions must be taken with a grain of salt. You simply don’t know exactly how many points you’ll need to get your next free flight until you book. That makes it difficult to plan and budget for reward travel – a flight that requires just 8,000 points today could require 13,000 points next week, or vice versa.

Final Word

Among major airlines’ reward credit cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card stands out as a bit of an odd duck. Until the introduction of the More Rewards program, it wasn’t possible to redeem Rapid Rewards points for flights on other air carriers, hotel stays, rental cars, or merchandise. It’s still not possible to transfer Rapid Rewards points directly to other carriers’ loyalty programs, as is possible with airlines that belong to one of the major global airline alliances (such as Star Alliance).

Then again, Southwest has always prided itself on doing things differently. If you fly Southwest frequently enough to apply for this card, the airline’s little quirks probably don’t bother you.

Our rating



  • thumbs-upBroad 2x categories beyond Southwest airfare
  • thumbs-upSolid progress toward Companion Pass and A-List status
  • thumbs-up6,000 bonus points each cardmember anniversary


  • thumbs-downHas a $99 annual fee
  • thumbs-downModest baseline earn rate
  • thumbs-downDynamic redemption values make planning difficult
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.